Thursday, September 2, 2010

No more cheap oil

Probability: 95%

Timeline: 25 years

The age of cheap oil is slowly coming to an end.

People are slowly starting to wake up to this fact, but unfortunately there are a lot of organizations that depend on it and really don't want this era to end.

Short-term thinkers want to plunder and use up the last little bit we have, at the same rate that we have been for decades.

More progressive leaders realize that we need to use the remaining oil we have to develop new sustainable technologies, so that we can continue to enjoy improving (or at least consistent) quality of life.

Hopefully we won't be stupid enough to squander the last bits of fossil fuels.

Even squirrels are smart enough to put away a few nuts for the winter.

Are we as smart as our furry little friends?

Let's hope so.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Google becomes Microsoft

Probability: 70%

Timeline: 5 years

Google has been one of my favorite companies for a long time, but lately they seem to be losing their edge.

Google Apps started out as an amazing new business platform, hosted "in the cloud" with many features that couldn't be done with traditional office applications (ie. Microsoft Office).

Lately, however, the Apps team(s) seem to be trying to copy Microsoft's features one by one.

They're trying to duplicate VBScript (Apps Script) and Visual Basic (GWT). They're trying to match Office feature by feature.

This is the same path that Microsoft used with WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3. It did eventually lead to their dominance (because they owned the operating system) but Word and Excel aren't really much more innovative than their ancestors.

I don't think this is a great strategy, because the web/browser environment lends itself to something that could be much better and much more powerful.

I'm guessing they have long lists of companies that claim they will switch "as soon as they have features A, B, and C" but they might be missing the point.

To avoid this fate, they really need to clean house, and refocus on a large scale.

Otherwise, we will have to wait for "Company X" to emerge and start challenging the new "corporatized" Google...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Biotech and Nanotech will flop

Probability: 70%

Timeline: 25 years

I'm not sure why, but I think both of these technologies will fail to deliver to the degree of their hype. At least not in the next quarter century.

No doubt that they've already produced some interesting advancements, but I think future developments in these fields will be slow and fairly boring.

These fields in 2010 remind  me of space technology of the 1960s.

Sure, we got some pretty neat stuff out of the race to the space, but certainly no flying cars, or subdivisions on the moon.

I don't think either of these technologies will produce the miracles that some suggest.

Hopefully some eager scientists will prove me wrong!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

People will get bored of Apple gadgets

Probability: 90%

Timeline: 5 years

Apple products are beautifully designed, with highly functional user interfaces.

But I'm not sure they really deserve the amount of attention they get.

It seems to me that the marketing has a lot more to do with their popularity than the products themselves.

Sure, every gadget Apple releases these days is a "must have" from day 1, but will they stand the test of time?

I've used iPods, iPhones and even an iPad here and there. I thought they were nice to use, but wasn't really "blown away" by them.

I suspect in 5 years there will be other companies with shiny new fad products capturing people's attention and money.

Apple's stuff will be old, clunky, and gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Obesity gets even worse

Probability: 95%

Timeline: Now for the next decade

This is already a massive problem, and there are lots of campaigns to reduce obesity, but the problem just keeps getting worse.

If you don't believe me, just have a look at this scary data from "ground zero" of the epidemic, the United States:

Here are some predictions from better-educated sources than myself:

Notice that the correlation between extra weight and many diseases has been established for decades now.

Obesity is spreading around the world like a plague.

No wonder. With cheap, fatty, salty, sugary food being shoved in our faces from all angles, it is getting more and more difficult to eat properly.

The only way to stop this trend is to change the economics. Instead of promoting junk food, we need to make healthy food cheaper, and unhealthy food more expensive.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No more bananas

Probability: 70%

Timeline: 25 years

I love bananas. They are the perfect food.

Sweet and delicious, they have natural packaging and a visual ripeness indicator.

I'm eating as many bananas as I can get my hands on, because they're cheap and plentiful.

The problem is that I don't think they will be for much longer.

I suspect that a combination of political problems, environmental pressures, and transportation cost increases will make these treats more difficult to obtain in the future.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sea level rise has big effects

Probability: 90%

Timeline: 25 years

This one seems to be a no-brainer. Just quickly reading the Wikipedia entry about sea level rise show this to be very likely.

The real questions to consider at this point are:

  1. How fast will it happen?
  2. What areas will be impacted the most?
Certainly low-lying island nations are most at risk. In fact, large parts of Tuvalu have already been evacuated and the entire country may eventually have to be abandoned!

How well can coastal populations deal with a 1-meter rise in sea levels by the end of the century? We'll have to see.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Microsoft will buy RIM (Blackberry)

Probability: 70%

Timeline: 5 years

Ok, this is a pretty bold prediction, but one that has been discussed a lot.

Google and Apple have been eating away at RIM's (or "Blackberry" as most people know them) market share slowly but surely.

Microsoft, meanwhile, knows that the future is all about mobile, but has failed over and over again in this realm.

Have a look at the graph here:

So the great MBA logic here will be to combine the two, and take advantage of "synergies."

It sort of makes sense, considering there is a huge link between RIM and Microsoft. They are both very "corporate" and their products are often maintained by the same IT department.

Bonus prediction: Synergies aside, the merger will slow down and hurt both companies, and their market share will fall even faster.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nationalism decreases

Probability: 51%

Timeline: 50 years

This is a tough one, so I can only really give it slightly better than a 50/50 chance. So the astute among you may have realized this isn't really a very good prediction at all. More of just a comment.

Overall, the world's population has become a bit more "mixed up" as people move around. And people tend to acclimate to a country's culture given enough time.

There are a number of people that consider themselves "citizens of the world" and aren't overly nationalist.

But there are far more people that get extremely fired up about their patriotism. Enough to be violent about it.

Hopefully the "us versus them" mentality will subside as society progresses, but at current, it's still really just a hope.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No more honey

Probability: 70%

Timeline: 25 years

Here's a bit of a random prediction for you. No more honey -- at least not in commercial quantities anymore.

Why not? Apparently bee populations are in severe decline.

Nobody is quite sure why at this stage, so there's still hope that we'll figure it out in time to reverse the problem.

Pesticides appear to be a likely cause, but use and availability have continued to rise, especially in North America.

It's a good thing honey can be stored a long time. Time to start building up a stockpile! :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

International borders open up

Probability: 30%

Timeline: 50 years

This is more of a wish than a prediction.

It seems that all countries -- even the ones you'd traditionally consider to be "poor" -- are cracking down on immigration.

It is becoming increasing difficult to live and work in a country other than the one you happened to be born in.

People's movement is restricted by governments, and increasingly, corporations -- as working for a local company is often a requirement for residency.

Unfortunately, nationalism seems to be on the increase, and I don't foresee this happening in my lifetime.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BCI goes mainstream

Probability: 70%

Timeline: 15 years

I was originally going to title this "We control computers with our mind" but then I remembered that functional BCI (brain computer interface) has been around for decades!

What I predict, is that it will become an actual viable alternative to other input methods, like touchscreens, keyboards, and mice.

The major bottleneck to effectively using communication and computing tools right now is the inefficiency of our input and output devices.

Once we can have more direct control and communication with computers -- and each other -- I think it will open up a whole new world of possibilities.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Robots will turn on us

Probability: 70%

Timeline: 50 years

Yes, I know, this has been a common theme in science fiction for decades now, but unlike the cheery future presented in The Jetsons, the Terminator scenario seems to be getting closer every day.

We have all sorts of unmanned probes and robotics, and computing power increases exponentially every 18 months.

How long until we can build something with the computing power of the human brain? If things continue as they have been, we could be looking at this happening as early as 2025 -- fifteen years from now. You can read why in this very detailed article.

So we'll have the computing power. But why would we program it to be able to make its own decisions? Doesn't that sound dangerous?

We already have lots of software that make certain decisions much faster (and often better) than humans. Think about airplane autopilots. They take inputs from the real world, evaluate them, and translate them back to outputs on the real world again.

Even still, why would a mechanical intelligence turn on us? There are a few ideas here.

At current, this outcome seems more likely than not, unless some other disaster sets back technological progress significantly.

Friday, June 4, 2010

War rages on

Probability: 90%

Timeline: Forever

If there has been one constant since the beginning of civilization, it is war.

In good times and bad, people always seem to manage to find things to fight about.

We kill each other for beliefs, revenge, food, water, oil, diamonds -- you name it.

I believe the number one threat to human existence has been and will continue to be -- human existence.